Ambition scheme to create railway museum

Ambition scheme to create railway museum

11 September 2011

A PUBLIC meeting in Ballynahinch next week will discuss ambitious plans for a new heritage steam railway.

The Belfast and Co. Down Railway Trust is hosting the meeting which will focus on plans for a new steam railway linking Saintfield, Crossgar and Ballynahinch.

An open invitation has been extended to local people and representatives from community groups to take part in next Thursday night’s meeting at the Market House in Ballynahinch which starts at 8pm.

Ahead of next week’s meeting, the Railway Trust has explained the proposed heritage steam railway will differ from any other preserved railways in Ireland as it will be constructed using track to the British and International gauge of 4’ 81/2”, rather than the standard Irish track gauge of 5’ 3”.

The Trust says as a result, the proposed steam railway will be the only preserved one in any part of Ireland that will have the capability to operate some of the better-known, or possibly some of the famous engines from the rest of the UK. The Trust argues this fact will give it a distinct advantage in attracting tourists to the area. 

The chosen route of the new railway will be along the line of the former Belfast and Co. Down Railway with the Trust anxious to restore the railway as closely as possible to its original condition. It says all buildings and installations of the original railway will be replicated as closely as possible.

The Trust has already purchased a portion of the track-bed on the old Ballynahinch branch line and has agreed terms for the use of much of the remainder of the route.

But officials say it is unlikely any work will be carried out before Christmas, but hope the proposal will gather steam in the New Year.

Locomotives and rolling stock have already been promised and efforts are currently being made to secure track which it’s hoped will be laid early next year. 

The Trust says that In the meantime, the track-bed has to be cleared of small trees and shrubs that have grown up since the line closed. Drainage systems also have to be cleared.

Trust officials believe the project offers a “unique opportunity” for any tradesmen who are currently unemployed to keep their hand in, or for young people to become involved in the development of a tourist amenity in their local area.

It says work will be available for many tradesmen and labourers on a voluntary basis, with the possibility of full time employment when the museum becomes fully operational.

The Trust has also confirmed it’s seeking support from local businesses who may be interested in sponsorship, or in supporting the project in any way. 

Further information about the project is available at